Menopause And Weight Gain
Talking to most women over 50 you will quickly find that menopause and weight gain are linked in their experience. It is very common to put on weight at this time and while some of this may be due to lifestyle changes, that does not explain why suddenly we develop a tendency to put on weight at different parts of the body, especially the abdomen, while any weight gained when we were younger tended to be centered on the hips.
The truth is that hormonal changes do have a part to play in this, although the process is not completely understood. At menopause a woman stops ovulating, her monthly menstruation periods end, and her body produces much lower levels of the female hormone estrogen which is responsible for the ovulation process. Low estrogen has been shown to cause weight gain in animals and it almost certainly is the reason why our bodies change shape. While women of childbearing age store fat in the lower body, after the menopause they store it on the abdomen instead, like men. This leads to a greater risk of heart disease.
At the same time, both men and women tend to find muscle turning to fat as they grow older, and the metabolism slows down. This means that if you do not adjust your eating habits you will probably find that your weight increases. A person of 60 just does not need as many calories as a person of 40.
Hormone therapy with estrogen is sometimes prescribed to control menopausal symptoms. Many women will be surprised to hear that studies have shown that hormone therapy does not cause weight gain. Some women experience bloating and water retention in the early stages of hormone therapy but this is usually temporary and they have not gained any fat. Hormone therapy can reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the changes in storage of body fat around the abdomen and lowering cholesterol. However, hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.
If you find that you are gaining weight around the menopause, there are several things you can do.
1. Healthy Diet: Reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Metabolism decreases with age and you require fewer calories than before. Eliminate fatty food and processed foods. Choose lean meats, fish. Cook with olive oil. Eat whole grains and vegetables. Choose foods high in fiber and low in sugar. Fresh vegetables are low in fat and high in fiber. Monitor your portions. Eat foods rich in phytoestrogens such as soy and licorice root; they help increase estrogen that is lost during menopause. Plan your meals ahead of time.
2. Exercise: Exercise as often as possible, preferably 5 days a week. Regular exercise helps shed body weight and strengthens your core. Core exercises tone abdominal muscles and helps flatten your tummy. Free weights can strengthen core muscles as you need to remain balanced to lift weights. They also provide more strength benefits than weight machines. However, in some instances, they are used for stability you may not have at first. As we approach perimenopause and menopause muscle mass is lost and you are prone to increased abdominal fat. Strength training increases muscle mass. Adding strength training exercises can help boost metabolism. Muscle is like a furnace to your body, burning more calories, even at rest, than without muscle mass.
3. Aerobic exercise: moderate intensity aerobic exercises burn calories and fat. Try incorporating this exercise 3 days a week.
4. De-stress: stress enhances fat and increases deep abdominal fat. It releases high levels of cortisol and places fat into cell deposits deep in your abdomen. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
Dr. Angie has assisted many women get rid of their menopausal weight gain. She will work with you to develop an individualized program that will work with your specific issues of menopause and weight gain. To discuss this with her further please schedule a consultation today!